Asad Umar Defends Decision to Ease Restrictions

Asad Umar Defends Decision to Ease Restrictions

• 11 more Covid-19 patients die in a day
• 7,000 overseas Pakistanis to be brought back next week

Amid prevailing confusion due to political wrangling over the response to Covid-19, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Wednesday that confusion was created because there were more than one option to deal with the situation.

“No one including Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to take a decision that had health implications, but sometimes difficult decisions are made even on issues related to public health,” the minister told a presser a day after the federal government eased the restrictions despite reservations by Sindh over its fallout on efforts to contain the virus.

Justifying PM Khan’s decision to allow reopening of some industries amid the lockdown, the federal minister termed it ‘a balanced decision’ and said it was taken considering the ground realities in Pakistan, which was not a developed country.

The explanation came from the federal government on a day when Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza told the media that the tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases had crossed 6,000 while 11 more people died from the disease during the past 24 hours.

The PM’s aide on health announced that a guideline had been made for the industry to ensure that all employees remain protected and to prevent local transmission of the deadly virus.

Dr Mirza said the number of cases in the country was almost three times fewer than the number forecast by predictive modelling. “Till date over 18,000 cases should have been reported, but there are only 6,000,” he said, claiming that only 107 deaths had been reported till date although 216 deaths from coronavirus by April 15 had been predicted.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf, who was also present at the press conference, shared the details of flights being operated to bring back Pakistanis from different countries.

From next week, he said, the number of people being brought back to the country every week would be increased from 2,000 to 7,000. He said only 2,000 overseas Pakistanis were being brought per week as there was limited capacity of daily tests for coronavirus.

The PM’s aide said: “Earlier all flights were being operated from and to the Islamabad International Airport, but now six airports have been opened for the purpose across the country.”

While sharing flight details, he said 270 passengers were brought from Japan and Thailand on Wednesday, 360 passengers would be brought from the UAE on Thursday (today) and 500 pilgrims would be brought from Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, he added, Pakistanis who had been released from jails in the UAE and Oman, and some stranded Pakistanis would be brought from Indonesia.

He said 41 Pakistanis would be brought from India through Wagah border on Thursday (today).

In the first phase, Dr Yusuf said, the pilgrims, the overseas Pakistanis who were released from jails or who lost their jobs in the UAE would be brought.

“However, I want to make it clear that those who want to stay in hotels, during the period of quarantine, will have to bear their expenses of accommodation, as state cannot afford the rent of hotels. Otherwise, they will be kept at quarantine centres,” he announced.

Earlier, the federal minister said: “We had to think about those who work on daily wages, as the major issue of developing countries is hunger. Those who had saved money for the wedding of their daughters, may have survived by consuming that amount but they would be left with nothing for the weddings. Same was the case with those who had saving for the education of their children.”

Mr Umar said the decision for reopening of some industries was made after considering the financial conditions of tens of millions of people.

He said till Tuesday evening, Rs35 billion was distributed among over 2.86 million families under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.

The government had allocated Rs144 billion for the financial assistance of 12 million families.

He said some critics wanted a uniform policy be enforced across the country but he believe that provinces and even districts should act as per their understanding and requirements. “It is said think globally and act locally. Difference of opinion is obvious even in central government of the US, governors and states,” he added.

Meanwhile, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal announced that all personal protection equipment (PPEs) for safety of doctors against spread of Covid-19 would preferably be procured from local market.